Television shows create physical and social spaces with fewer rough edges, harsh realities, and gaps to fall through than actually exist in real life all the time. The medium’s presentation of idealized versions of reality is one of its most distinct pleasures. Few shows, however, are so recklessly obvious about their wish fulfillment as to actually name their fictional setting Paradise. On the other hand, a show that trades in nothing but wish fulfillment is subject to the traditional first theological problem of childhood: Heaven, where nothing bad ever happens forever and ever, is sure to be boring after a while.
The teen-musical-comedy-drama Bunheads, which just finished its first season on ABC Family, nimbly skips over the second objection by rushing through a season’s worth of soap operatics in the first episode, establishing Vegas dancer Michelle Simms (played by Broadway star Sutton Foster in her first major onscreen role) as a woman adrift emotionally, socially, and career-wise, covering up a couple of decades of self-loathing and failure with smart-ass chatter and a deep wariness of anyone who tries to get too close. In a move that on any less wish-fulfilly show would be horrifically creepy, one man finds his way in by getting Michelle drunk, marrying her, and packing her off to join him in his small, picturesque California hometown, Paradise. [...]